Mr Kipling owner takes hit as men and women given equal pensions

Mr Kipling

The food group behind Mr Kipling cakes and Ambrosia custard sank to a pre-tax loss of £42.7 million for the full year on the back of new pension rules treating women on a par with men.

Premier Foods estimated the cost of equalising benefits dating back to the 1990s at £41.5 million, making it one of the first big employers to reveal the cost of the High Court judgment handed down in October in a case involving Lloyds Banking Group.

The case, brought after unions complained about the Lloyds schemes, related to the different treatment of men and women who contracted out of the state earnings related pension scheme.

All British companies operating defined benefit pension schemes between 1990 and 1997 will be affected.

Premier, which traces its origins back to the creation of Bird’s Custard in 1837 and Oxo in 1910, was once one of Britain’s biggest food companies, but fell into difficulty in 2008 on the back of a debt-fuelled deal spree. It became a target for activists after it rejected a bid from McCormick & Co, an American food group, and entered an alliance with Nissin, the Japanese noodle maker, which has a 19.05 per cent stake.

In November, Gavin Darby resigned as chief executive and in February Premier agreed to another strategic review and a shake-up of its board, giving representation to the Hong Kong-based Oasis Management Company and Paulson & Co, the US investor.